How Bombs and Other Loud Booms Can Damage Hearing—and How People Can Get Help

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We live in a time of constant exposure to loud sounds. Some of them are completely unexpected and earsplitting, such as last month’s blasts at the Boston Marathon and explosions at the fertilizer plant in West, Texas, or the roadside bombs constantly encountered by military service members overseas.

The newspapers and television media share some of the awful lingering effects for survivors, particularly the physical and psychological trauma. Occasionally the media comment on the disorientation and temporary effects on hearing. But we seldom learn of the long-term effects that many of the survivors experience, especially in relation to hearing loss.

The hearing system is a wonderful and a very delicate tool that allows us to hear a wide range of sounds and words. We take our hearing ability for granted until something occurs to disrupt it. We attend a thunderous rock concert, watch booming 4th of July fireworks or listen to our electronic devices on top volume. Afterward we notice that we are not able to hear clearly for a while. But then our hearing gradually returns to what seems like normal, and we expose ourselves to that same noise again and again. Each time we do this, we increase the likelihood that our hearing will gradually be permanently affected—and we cannot get it back. This deterioration happens because the tiny sensory hair cells of the inner ear get destroyed. These cannot be restored!

Those who happened to near the Boston Marathon bombings were rendered disoriented and unable to hear by the sudden blasts. Some may have found their hearing improving and feeling OK by the next day. But others may now have a noise in their head that is either constant or intermittent—the result of the huge blast their ears were exposed to. These people may find it useful to speak with an audiologist about reducing the effects of this noise on their lives.

Others exposed to the blast may not be able to hear as well as they could before this traumatic event. Their speech may be unclear, or even greatly reduced, and they may hear themselves quite loudly but cannot hear others when they speak. They may wonder at the fact that others next to them have no such permanent effects. All of us are different. And for some reason, some of us can tolerate loud sounds a lot better than others and don’t seem to react as much as others. There is no way to predict at present who can tolerate loud sounds versus who cannot.

What can a person do when there has been a long-term effect on hearing? There are two groups of people who specialize in hearing disorders: Physicians who are ear, nose and throat specialists, and those who are doctors of audiology (audiologists). An audiologist has the training and knowledge to treat hearing disorders, and the physician is trained to treat medical issues related to hearing. Audiologists help those with noise in the ear or hearing loss reduce these effects. Physicians work to repair problems in the ear with medication and surgery.

But a physician’s work may not be enough to solve the problem, and that is when an audiologist may provide the most assistance. The important take-home message is that you do not have to live with deteriorating hearing. Reach out to audiologists and physicians, who can help you continue functioning well in society and access a high quality of life.

 

James Blair, PhD, CCC-A, is a professor of audiology at Utah State University and an affiliate of ASHA Special Interest Group 8, Public Health Issues Related to Hearing and Balance.

Giving Peruvian Children the Power of Communication

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In March, I traveled to Lima, Peru, with our Mercy College communications disorders program director, Helen Buhler, and a team of 27 physicians, surgeons, nurses, technicians and other SLPs. We were there as part Mercy College’s partnership with Healing the Children, Northeast, which provides primarily surgical services to children in need in the United States and abroad.

Over the week we were there, 37 children had surgery; some had traveled for 7 days to reach the hospital. We SLPs worked on parent training, peer training and direct service delivery. Here are some excerpts from the blog I kept during our visit.

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I cried when Dr. Manoj Abraham—a surgeon from Vassar Hospital—put the last stitch into the baby’s lip.

On Friday, Helen, Marianella Bonelli—an SLP and Mercy alum—and I visited with all the parents on the ward. For those whose children had had a lip repair, we celebrated together, admiring their beautiful babies. For those who had their lips repaired but still would need palate surgery in the future, we also gave advice on helping the kids develop good speech habits now to establish good airflow from the mouth after the palate is closed. We worked directly with the kids who had newly closed palates and their parents, teaching about how to bring the sounds out through the mouth and not the nose. Needless to say, there were many therapy materials, toys and goodies passed around, ensuring we went home empty handed but the kids did not.

After speech rounds, we put on fresh scrubs and went to surgery. Dr. Abraham was operating on a baby with a cleft lip that went up into her nose all the way, and welcomed us to observe him.

He was putting this baby’s nose together, carefully making it match the other side as much as possible. He worked some more on the deep layers of the lip, making sure it would be able to have free movement. Then he sutured the philtrum, the raised line that runs down from your nostril to the beginning of the red part of your lip. Suddenly, this baby had a sweet Cupid’s bow of a mouth…a mouth that would pout and pucker, shout, whisper…

Even though it was my second time in the OR and I thought I was over it, I cried and cried. Writing this now, I’m crying again.

What a gift.

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As I came into the speech office (a commandeered storage room), I saw Helen doing…arts and crafts? 

Helen always says we do cowgirl therapy on these trips—shooting from the hip. When an 11-year-old girl with cerebral palsy arrived with very few spoken words, and those few only intelligible to her mom, Helen created an old school low-tech augmentative communication device. She used paper, a sheet protector and some of our speech materials to create a board with some basic vocabulary.

The mom was thrilled to have a way for her daughter to communicate some wants and needs to others in her life. Helen showed her how to create more pages for the board as the child mastered its use. The mom’s eyes were shining—it was so obvious that the board would be implemented immediately.

Based on a quick evaluation, it was clear that the child understood a lot more than she could say, so we hope this is a way she can start to “say” something to the world at last.

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We also worked with a four year old boy with hearing loss due to a malformation of the external and middle ear. He has had recurrent ear infections and had drainage from one ear. He was taking an assortment of antibiotics, and his mom had a thick folder of medical records with her. Although his audiological testing shows a hearing loss, he is not currently a candidate for surgery (Dr. Ryan Brown graciously gave him an exam on the fly to double check).

Helen spent some time with the mom, teaching about behavior management, and I taught her about sign language. I taught them three signs: “go,” “more” and “eat.” The kid chased me around the grounds of the hospital, as we worked our way over to our surgical consult, and I would only run if he signed, “go.” We went from hand-over-hand to slight physical prompt, to following a model for the sign “go.”

The mother was shocked at how positive our interaction was—he was laughing as he chased me. Soon, this kid will experience the power of controlling his world through communication.

Score one for the speech department.

Shari Salzhauer Berkowitz, PhD, CCC-SLP, is an assistant professor at Mercy College in Dobbs Ferry, N.Y. She is an affiliate of ASHA Special Interest Groups 10 (Issues in Higher Education) and 17 (Global Issues in Communications Sciences and Related Disorders). Her research interests include cross-language and bilingual speech perception, multi-modal speech perception and integrating technology and instrumentation into the communication disorders curriculum.

 

Kid Confidential: Hearing Loss, Classroom Difficulties, and Accommodations

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(photo credit: sound waves via Bigstock)

Ah, the familiar sounds of rustling papers, fast paced walks from meeting to meeting room, and that all too common groan, a mixture of frustration and exhaustion in equal parts, remind me that it is that time of year in the schools.  It is “IEP season”.

In honor of the countless hours of reassessment, data collection, and paperwork completion you will be doing over the next few months, I thought I’d write a post to help out those of you who are once again, hitting the keyboards and staring at that blank section on your IEP.  You know the one I’m talking about.  You spend a lot of time thinking about it only after all the data and classroom observations are compiled.  You know it needs to be completed but after writing your student’s present level of performance, his goals and objects and of course his service time, who has the energy left to even think about classroom accommodations and modifications.  Well that is where I step in, at least for those of you who have students with hearing loss on your caseloads.

Last year at this time I had a few students with hearing loss managed with both hearing aids and cochlear implant (CI) on my caseload.  As a multidisciplinary team, we had to do some research to find appropriate accommodations and modifications for those students.  However, I recently read the book Children with Hearing Loss: Developing Listening and Talking Birth to Six, by Elizabeth Cole and Carol Flexer which provided some clinically useful information on the specific deficits a child with hearing loss might have in the classroom setting.  I wish I had read this last year while I was struggling with the multidisciplinary team to write an appropriate IEP.  But now that I found this information, I thought I would adapt parts of it and compile that information into a table for quick reference in the future.

The accommodations and modifications in the graphic below are suggestions of possibilities you may attempt to provide for your students.  This is by no means an exhaustive list nor would every student benefit from each suggestion.  Therefore, I recommend you use this list as a guide only while working collaboratively with your multidisciplinary team to determine appropriate accommodations and modifications for each student on an individual basis.

You will notice that the first accommodation for any hearing loss is the use of an FM system alone or in conjunction with auditory management (e.g. hearing aids, cochlear implant, other technology).  Research has shown the use of individual FM systems positively impact students with hearing loss of any severity level AND that classroom or sound field FM systems benefit ALL students.  One can’t help but wonder how different a student’s behavior would be in a classroom where the speech to noise ratio was in fact the recommended +15-20 dB rather than the typical +4 dB (Cole, Flexer 2007).  That is why the recommendation of an FM system is first as it is not only practical but very beneficial even for a child with very mild hearing loss.

Here are the levels of severity, classroom difficulties and possible accommodations and modifications for children with hearing loss.

You can download your copy of the above materials here.

I hope these materials help guide you and your multidisciplinary team when writing IEPs for your students with hearing loss.  Do you have additional modifications or accommodations you would add to this list?  Let us know by commenting below.

Thanks for stopping by and reading our second installment of Kid Confidential.  If you have any topics you would like us to discuss here, feel free to share.  You just might see your topic suggestion in one of the upcoming columns.  I’ll meet you back here on the second Thursday of next month.

Until then, remember, knowledge is power, so let’s keep learning!

References:

  • Cole, Elizabeth, and Carol Flexer. Classroom Accommodations for Students with Hearing Impairment. San Diego, CA: Plural Publishing, Inc., 2007. Print

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Maria Del Duca, MS, CCC-SLP, is a pediatric speech-language pathologist in southern, Arizona.  She owns a private practice, Communication Station: Speech Therapy, PLLC, and has a speech and language blog under the same name.  Maria received her master’s degree from Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania.  She has been practicing as an ASHA certified member since 2003 and is an affiliate of Special Interest Group 16, School-Based Issues.  She has experience in various settings such as private practice, hospital and school environments and has practiced speech pathology in NJ, MD, KS and now AZ.  Maria has a passion for early childhood, autism spectrum disorders, rare syndromes, and childhood Apraxia of speech.  For more information, visit her blog or find her on Facebook.

ASHA’s Listen To Your Buds Campaign Brings Safe Listening Message to The 2013 International Consumer Electronics Show

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Annette Gorey, ASHA’s Public Relations Specialist, works to get ASHA’s booth ready for the show.

More than 150,000 people may hear more about ASHA’s Listen to Your Buds campaign at this week’s 2013 International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas. This marks ASHA’s fifth consecutive year as a CES exhibitor, and the ASHA Public Relations team couldn’t be more excited to spread the word about listening safely and preventing noise-induced hearing loss.

The Listen to Your Buds exhibit will be in the heart of the CES Digital Health Summit. And new this year, ASHA joins the show’s MommyTech Summit to connect with influencers, mommy bloggers, key children’s health and technology media and more. We’ll convey how Listen to Your Buds can help parents help young people use personal audio technology safely. As you probably well know, the parent blogosphere is more powerful than ever and growing fast. This is an increasingly important audience for our Listen to Your Buds campaign and outreach efforts.

The time has never been riper for a safe listening message. Spend a day with a toddler, elementary school student, tween or teen – or just walk around the mall, stand in line at Starbucks or stroll down the street – and you can’t help but see how kids are more connected to personal audio devices than ever before. Headphones have become a fashion item. The latest color iPod is in the hands of a six-year-old. Teens are at the gym listening to music. And this past holiday season, personal audio technology items were among the hottest gifts around. Now, in the wake of technology gift-giving and increased daily technology time, parents should monitor their child’s usage and volume levels and model safe listening behaviors – and the tips at www.listentoyourbuds.org can help.

We know even minimal hearing loss can affect children’s social interaction, communication skills, behavior, emotional development, and academic performance. Some parents are now realizing this, too. Eighty-four percent of parents are concerned that misuse of personal audio technology damages the hearing of children, according to the results of an online poll commissioned by ASHA last May. Parents also show overwhelming support for hearing screenings for tweens and teens—71% for 10- to 11-year-olds and 67% for 16- to 17-year-olds—according to a University of Michigan Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health released just last month.

ASHA’s exhibit booth in the Living in Digital Times area has information about hearing loss prevention, warning signs of hearing damage, and how to find a local ASHA-certified audiologist using ASHA’s ProSearch. ASHA member and Las Vegas audiologist Dr. Daniel Fesler, CCC-A and Buds Coalition Musician Oran Etkin will be on hand to talk with attendees.

The Consumer Electronics Association (CEA), who puts on the CES each year, is among the Buds’ dozen dedicated sponsors; we joined forces in 2007. Recently, CEA President and CEO Gary Shapiro highlighted just how important the Buds message is. “As a longtime supporter of the Listen To Your Buds youth campaign, CEA represents companies that create audio technologies for listeners of all ages,” says Gary Shapiro, president and CEO of CEA. “We promote products, like noise-canceling and sound-isolating headphones, that help minimize outside sounds, and volume-controlled headphones that give control to parents of young children. New innovations are still to come that will help us practice and teach safe listening so that we can all listen for a lifetime.’”

Erin Mantz is a Public Relations Manager for ASHA.

Nothing Smaller Than Your Elbow Please

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(Photo credit)

Ear wax: We all have it. We all want it gone.

Most audiologists are often asked about ear wax. What is it? Why is it sticky? Why do I make so much? How can I get rid of it?

Say “yes” to ear wax.

Ear wax actually helps to keep your ears clean.

The wax traps dirt, dust and debris such as dead skin cells from the ear canal, dried shampoo and shave cream and possibly the occasional flea or gnat. This debris is held together by oil and wax secreted by glands living in your ear canal. The secretions also have natural antibiotic properties that help keep bad bacteria from growing in the warm dark and cozy environment of ear canals. And you thought it was just a nuisance!

What kind of wax do you produce?

Ear wax or cerumen comes in two varieties: wet (honey-colored and sticky) and dry (grayish and flaky). Ear wax type is highly heritable and considered a Mendelian trait that follows the laws of genetics. The trait of wet or dry ear wax was once attributed to a single gene but today, research has identified another gene contributing to this sticky situation. Your ear wax type was determined by your ancestry. Almost all people with European or African ancestry have wet wax. If you have northeastern Asian ancestry will most likely have the dry and flaky variety.

People have no trouble cleaning belly button lint and removing mucus from the nose, but most have no clue how to safely take care of excess ear wax. For most people the ear is self-cleaning and ear wax is removed by the natural flow of the wax out of the ear. Ear wax problems are typically self-inflicted. If you listen with ear phones for long periods of time, (at safe loudness levels please) wax can become trapped because the natural flow of wax out of the canal is blocked with the ear phone. However, most problems arise when the wax becomes impacted up close to the ear drum– down deep in the ear canal. This usually occurs from attempts to clean ear wax using implements of destruction such as cotton swabs, hair pins and tooth picks. If you choose to use these tools to clean your ears, you run the risk of puncturing the ear drum (ouch!) or impacting the wax in the canal in an area beyond the oil secreting cells. The soft wax dries up into a hard ball and can cause a temporary hearing loss or dizziness until it is professionally removed. Contact an audiologist if you think ear wax may be the cause of your hearing or dizziness problems. Audiologists will advise you on how to prepare for a professional ear cleaning. They often provide ear wax removal. And if you make more than is typical, the audiologist will schedule appointments once or twice a year to keep things under control.

Do you have too much of a good thing?

Stress (even physical exercise) and anxiety can increase wax production as well as medications that either activate or diminish the “flight or fight” response. Anatomical structures of the ear canal can cause wax to become trapped. When the ear canal twists and turns or narrows a bit, the wax will not easily flow from the canal. Even normal aging increases wax production.

Just as grandmother reminded us…put nothing smaller than your elbow in your ear and let Mother Nature do her work.

What other common questions do you get from patients in your audiology practice?

Pamela Mason, M.Ed., CCC-A is the director of audiology professional practices at the ASHA national office. She is a member of ASHA’s SIG 8, Public Health Issues Related to Hearing and Balance.

For Children with Hearing Loss, Parents’ Desired Outcomes Should Drive Early Intervention & Use of Hearing Technology

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Photo by bjorn knetsch

Just this past week, a hallway conversation with a colleague underscored the frustration that parents and caregivers of children with hearing loss seem to encounter on an all-too-frequent basis. My colleague described a situation whereby some very diligent parents had chosen to pursue bilateral cochlear implantation for their 10-month old son with a profound bilateral sensorineural hearing loss. Even though they had gathered a mountain of information, received support from their pediatrician, approval from their insurance company, and spoke to countless other parents – some of whom had chosen cochlear implants for their children with hearing loss and others who had not – they found the most resistance from their early intervention providers. Not only were these professionals unsupportive, they provided grossly inaccurate information about cochlear implants and listening and spoken language outcomes. It was plainly obvious to these parents that they had obtained more knowledge than the “professionals” who were there to serve them. Unfortunately, this scenario is repeated too often throughout the United States.

Almost without exception, parents want their children to have more successful lives than themselves. Whether that success be academic, social, or career-related, parents want what is best for their children. Determining what is “best” is a complicated process. Parents must use their own familial experiences, cultural perspectives, belief systems, and knowledge to make decisions that will affect the developmental, communicative, and academic success of their children.

For parents of young children with hearing loss, research informs us that approximately 95% of these parents are hearing themselves and have little or no experience with deafness. Usually, their only exposure to deafness is what they’ve seen portrayed in the media or the occasional interaction with an older relative with an age-related hearing loss.

So, what are parents to do and how should they determine what is best for their infant or toddler who has been diagnosed with hearing loss? Once that diagnosis is confirmed, parents need access to information about communication options and expected outcomes, hearing technology, and the available services in the community. The child’s audiologist is a pivotal professional in this process as he or she should get this discussion started. The range of hearing technology, such as digital hearing aids, cochlear implants, and assistive listening devices should be thoroughly reviewed and prescribed. Then, the family should be referred to an early intervention program (usually a statewide system), and appropriate early intervention services should be initiated.

The type, frequency, and intensity of the early intervention services should be based on the parents’ desired outcomes for the child. That is, if the child’s parents have decided that they want their child to be eventually mainstreamed in a local public school with hearing peers and to communicate using spoken language, then early intervention services should be structured to support those desired outcomes. Too often – in too many states – parents are given a very limited menu of services that are available and simply told which services will be provided. Of course, when this occurs, it fails the test of having services that are individualized, and the services certainly are not driven by what the parents want for their child with hearing loss.

Ultimately, parents need to make informed decisions about what they consider is appropriate for their child. They need to gather information from multiple sources, speak to other families who have navigated the system, and make sure they are informed about their rights. Each state has its own unique way of doing things, including how federal laws are interpreted and services provided. With perseverance and due diligence, parents usually can structure services that are appropriate for their child. The key is to be persistent and to not give up until the services provided support those long-term, desired outcomes that are envisioned for the child!

(Note: This blog was adapted from an original posting by the author on the Better Hearing Institute’s Pediatrics Blog.)

 

K. Todd Houston, Ph.D., CCC-SLP, LSLS Cert. AVT, is an Associate Professor in the School of Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology at The University of Akron. His primary areas of research include spoken language acquisition in children with hearing loss, strategies for enhancing parent engagement in the intervention process, Auditory-Verbal Therapy, and telepractice. He directs the Telepractice and eLearning Laboratory (TeLL), an initiative to evaluate clinical practices in the area of distance service delivery in Speech-Language Pathology.

Auditory-Verbal Therapy: Supporting Listening and Spoken Language in Young Children with Hearing Loss & Their Families

Deep conversation

Photo by juhansonin

Approximately 95% of parents of children with hearing loss are hearing themselves (Mitchell & Karchmer, 2004), and trends indicate that many parents are choosing spoken language as the primary mode of communication for their children with hearing loss. In fact, some states such as North Carolina, are reporting that parents are choosing spoken language options for their children with hearing loss more than 85% of the time (Alberg, Wilson & Roush, 2006), especially when they know spoken language is a viable outcome for their child. And, these parents are typically selecting approaches that support listening and spoken language, such as Auditory-Verbal Therapy, without initiating visual communication systems.

With early identification and the use of advanced hearing technology, children with even the most severe or profound hearing losses can access audition and follow an intervention approach focused on achieving typical developmental milestones in listening, speech, language, cognition, and conversational competence. Parents’ communication choices are based on their long-term desired outcomes for their child. Once those decisions are made, professionals providing early intervention and habilitative services should support the parents’ choices and provide the necessary support and intervention to ensure, to the greatest extent possible, that the child achieves those outcomes.

Definition of Auditory-Verbal Therapy

The Alexander Graham Bell (AG Bell) Academy for Listening and Spoken Language, which is based in Washington, DC, governs the certification of Listening and Spoken Language Specialists (LSLS), the practitioners qualified to provide Auditory-Verbal Therapy. The Academy defines the practice of Auditory-Verbal Therapy as:

“Auditory-Verbal Therapy facilitates optimal acquisition of spoken language through listening by newborns, infants, toddlers, and young children who are deaf or hard of hearing. Auditory-Verbal Therapy promotes early diagnosis, one-on-one therapy, and state-of-the-art audiologic management and technology. Parents and caregivers actively participate in therapy. Through guidance, coaching, and demonstration, parents become the primary facilitators of their child’s spoken language development. Ultimately, parents and caregivers gain confidence that their child can have access to a full range of academic, social, and occupational choices. Auditory-Verbal Therapy must be conducted in adherence to the Principles LSLS of Auditory-Verbal Therapy” (AG Bell Academy, 2012).

The Principles of Auditory-Verbal Therapy: Defining Practice

The Academy has endorsed a set of principles that delineate the practice of Auditory-Verbal Therapy:

  1. Promote early diagnosis of hearing loss in newborns, infants, toddlers, and young children, followed by immediate audiologic management and Auditory-Verbal Therapy;
  2. Recommend immediate assessment and use of appropriate, state-of-the-art hearing technology to obtain maximum benefits of auditory stimulation;
  3. Guide and coach parents to help their child use hearing as the primary sensory modality in developing spoken language;
  4. Guide and coach parents to become the primary facilitators of their child’s listening and spoken language development through active consistent participation in individualized Auditory-Verbal Therapy;
  5. Guide and coach parents to create environments that support listening for the acquisition of spoken language throughout the child’s daily activities;
  6. Guide and coach parents to help their child integrate listening and spoken language into all aspects of the child’s life;
  7. Guide and coach parents to use natural developmental patterns of audition, speech, language, cognition, and communication;
  8. Guide and coach parents to help their child self-monitor spoken language through listening;
  9. Administer ongoing formal and informal diagnostic assessments to develop individualized Auditory-Verbal treatment plans, to monitor progress, and to evaluate the effectiveness of the plans for the child and family; and
  10. Promote education in regular school with peers who have typical hearing and with appropriate services from early childhood onwards.

The Listening and Spoken Language Specialist (LSLS):

Two Paths to Certification

The AG Bell Academy has designated two paths to certification for Auditory-Verbal practitioners: LSLS Certified Auditory-Verbal Therapist (LSLS Cert. AVT) and the LSLS Certified Auditory-Verbal Educator (LSLS Cert. AVEd). The LSLS certification is awarded to qualified professionals who have met rigorous academic, professional, post-graduate education and mentoring requirements, and have passed a certification exam. Typically, LSLS certified practitioners are licensed audiologists, speech-language pathologists, or educators of the deaf who have the required background, training and experience in listening and spoken language theory and practice with children with hearing loss and their families. For additional information about certification as a Listening and Spoken Language Specialist (LSLS), speech-language pathologists and audiologists should contact the AG Bell Academy at academy@agbell.org, visit the website ate www.agbellacademy.org, or call (202) 204-4700.

References

Alberg, J., Wilson, K., & Roush, J. (2006). Statewide collaboration in the delivery of EHDI services. The Volta Review, 106, 3, 259-274.

AG Bell Academy for Listening and Spoken Language (2012). 2012 certification handbook. Available at www.agbellacademy.org

Mitchell, R.E. & Karchmer, M.A. (2004). Chasing the mythical ten percent: Parental hearing status of deaf and hard of hearing students in the United States. Sign Language Studies, 4, 2, 138-163.

 

Dr. K. Todd Houston, Ph.D., CCC-SLP, LSLS Cert. AVT, is an Associate Professor in the School of Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology at The University of Akron. His primary areas of research include spoken language acquisition in children with hearing loss, strategies for enhancing parent engagement in the intervention process, Auditory-Verbal Therapy, and telepractice. He directs the Telepractice and eLearning Laboratory (TeLL), an initiative to evaluate clinical practices in the area of distance service delivery in Speech-Language Pathology.

 

What is EHDI-PALS?

Baby Profile


Photo by PinkStock

The first few days after a baby’s birth can be some of the happiest for a growing family. Even so, the parents can have a certain amount of anxiety associated with caring for the newborn once it is home.  They worry about the car seat placement, feeding and nursing issues, whether the baby sleeps through the night…and on and on.  Today, infant hearing screening prior to hospital discharge is the standard of care because of the recognized benefits of early detection of hearing loss within the first year of life.

So imagine the increased concern parents have when bringing home an infant who may not hear well.  Modern society provides ready access to health information online.  Families may jump onto the internet searching for information without much prior knowledge of hearing loss.  Information gathered this way may be outdated, biased or incorrect.  By the time a family reaches an appropriate pediatric audiology facility they may well be armed with poorly-filtered information that could be confusing or just plain wrong.  At this point in time, it may be necessary for audiologists to provide additional informational and adjustment counseling.

Audiologists and speech-language pathologists know that improved speech and language communication outcomes are possible when hearing loss is identified and managed early in life. The Early Hearing Detection and Intervention process (EHDI) guides professionals and families in reaching these outcomes.  The goals of EHDI are to identify the hearing loss before hospital discharge, diagnose and confirm the hearing loss using advanced testing equipment and provide early access to auditory sounds through modern technology such as hearing aids and cochlear implants within six months of age.

How does a family locate audiology services?

EHDI-PALS will be a national web-based directory of pediatric audiology facilities designed to assist families and professionals in the EHDI process. Not all pediatric facilities are alike or have the equipment or services required by a child at a given time. For example, some facilities do not provide cochlear implant services and others only to children over three years of age.  The directory will contain detailed descriptions of pediatric audiology facilities and centers and will facilitate searching for appropriate services across the country.

The EHDI-PALS website development is in progress and is expected to go “live” in mid-2012. The site will contain links to reliable web information on childhood hearing loss, questions for families to ask the audiologists about where to go for hearing services and the EHDI process, and the EHDI-PALS directory.

The desired outcome for EHDI-PALS is to connect families with services that are family-centered and that create seamless professional audiology service provision across the early years of a child’s life.  Go to www.ehdipals.org and watch the website grow and build.

 

Pamela Mason, M.Ed., CCC-A is the director of audiology professional practices at the ASHA national office. Before working at ASHA, she directed the Audiology Center at the George Washington University Hospital in Washington DC.